One thing that the corona virus could not stop is the BCSA’s annual writing competition. Indeed, it may have made it even better in 2021, for we had a very good crop of quality entries. As always, they came from across the world. We had entries from India and Japan, for example, as well as from our three home countries of Slovakia, Czechia and Britain. Switzerland was a first for us this year.
This year’s winner is BCSA member Julian Wilde, a regular contributor to the BCS Review. His winning entry is called A Statue for the Future and can be read here. It takes the form of a discussion at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London over what best use to make of a donation of £100,000. This has been given to create a statue that links the Czech and Slovak lands and people with the UK.
Two entries tied for second prize. The first author is Margaréta Ďurovčíková, of Bratislava, with A Swallow’s Flight. She has written a moving account of a young Englishwoman’s visit to Poprad for her Slovak father’s funeral.
The second is Joseph Black, of Australia, with his essay entitled Small country, rich history and might: Czech immunisation history and contributions to the current fight against Covid-19. The title speaks for itself.
Covid was the suggested theme in this year’s competition. We got a range of interpretations.
Among these we have a lovely picture of a family having to meet by Zoom because lockdown meant that they couldn’t travel to see each other.
In another, with Caroline from Lincolnshire we get vaccinated at the O2 arena in Prague, and compare her memories of living in the city in 1991 with what it is like today.
We share the thoughts of a daughter as she flouts Britain’s lockdown travel rules to take her Czechoslovak father’s ashes to the sea, as she recalls finding his old RAF uniform in an old suitcase, and how as a teenager she had striven to form her own identity.
An amazing family history is told by 95-year-old Eliška, separated by covid from her family in a Manchester care home. She thinks back to 1841 and to her grandmother Hana, who was a friend of Božena Němcová, and the rural traditions shown in Babička. Eliška also reflects on her family’s move to England in 1937, how she raised her own family and how they related to their Czech heritage.
Covid was not a compulsory theme. Non-covid entries include two moving memoirs of visits to pre- and post-1989 Czechoslovakia and of the friendships formed then. We also have an ingenious reworking of Dana Zátopková’s Olympic success told from the viewpoint of her javelin.
A most entertaining account of a Scot’s postgraduate year in Czechoslovakia in 1972 includes a wedding missed because he was drinking slivovice to celebrate the release from prison of the father of a hitchhiker he picks up en route.
A topical entry on the Me-Too theme takes us to a trial of a celebrity accused of sexual assault, with the simultaneous thoughts of the judge and the two victims.